(Photo by Associated Press)
When the Mariners and Cubs made their “our problem for your problem” swap prior to the 2010 season — Carlos Silva for Milton Bradley — the odds seemed high that one of those players was going to eventually depart the team in a blaze of controversy and ill will.
But I’ll bet most people (including myself) figured it would be Bradley, and not Silva.
Of course, it still might end ugly for Bradley, but as of now, Bradley is a happy camper with Seattle, while Silva has burned every bridge in Mesa, Ariz., on his way out of the Cubs camp following his release on Sunday. Read this story to get a flavor of the enmity Silva created upon his departure by blasting the Cubs’ new pitching coach and pretty much blaming everyone but himself for his ongoing troubles.
For a couple of months last year, it looked like the Cubs were decisively “winning” the trade. Silva started off the season with an 8-0 record in his first 11 starts, and there began to be (legitimate) buzz that he could make the All-Star team (he didn’t). It was about that time, in mid-June, that I drove from St. Louis, where the Mariners were playing the Cardinals in an interleague series, to Wrigley Field to catch up with Silva. The resulting story ran in conjunction with the Cubs arrival for an interleague series at Safeco Field, June 22-24.
Not surprisingly, I found Silva to be in a great mood when I talked to him at length that day in the Cubs clubhouse, happy to get a few things off his chest. I honestly think Silva is a good guy at heart, but he seemed to be in denial about his problems in Seattle, foreshadowing a similar blind spot upon his release this weekend. He ripped the Mariners for worrying too much about his weight, but didn’t have much more of an explanation for his two terrible years in Seattle, which produced an overall 5-18 record and 6.81 ERA. And after his great start in Chicago, things unraveled pretty quickly. From July 1 until being shut down on Sept. 7, Silva went 2-5 with an 8.20 ERA. This spring was more of the same: in 17 1/3 innings, Silva gave up 32 hits and had a 10.90 ERA. He also had a dugout scuffle with teammate Aramis Ramirez a few weeks prior to his fiery departure, which is going to cost the Cubs $11.5 million, Silva’s 2011 salary (though the Mariners reportedly chipped in $9 million when they made the transaction in December of 2009). I actually wouldn’t be surprised if this was the end of the line for Silva, age 31. I can’t imagine many teams clamoring for his services, even at the major-league minimum, unless he changes his stance about going to the minors to work things out.
As for Bradley, it looked pretty bad for the Mariners last year, when he went on the restricted list in May to deal with personal issues. Bradley never got untracked upon his return, hitting just .205 in 73 games and undergoing knee surgery in August that ended his season. It looked even worse in January when Bradley was arrested on a felony charge for allegedly making threats against his wife. But now it doesn’t appear charges will be filed; Bradley and his wife are scheduled to have a private hearing in Los Angeles on Wednesday, which may be the end of the case.
Bradley, meanwhile, has had a strong spring, hitting .308/.391/.487 while tying Jack Cust for the team lead in RBIs with 11. By all accounts, he has blended well in the clubhouse, and is getting along famously with manager Eric Wedge (not the case when they were together in Cleveland). It would be a major upset if Bradley isn’t the everyday left fielder when the season starts on Friday.
Now, with Bradley, the possibility for some sort of blowup always exists, and I’m not ready to declare that it’s going to be smooth sailing in 2011. But Bradley, at least, still has a chance to be a positive contributor to the Mariners’ season. The Cubs can no longer say the same about Carlos Silva.